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By Pam Burke 

View from the North 40: The duct tape whisperer

 

April 10, 2015



The three most importand tools in my barn are duct tape, bailing twine and WD-40.

The first two on the list are in a constant battle for Top Tool, the primary go-to solution in any farming-ranching or equine handling emergency.

For problems that are mechanical or generally metal in nature, WD-40 has been invaluable. It pitches in doing everything from starting an engine to breaking free a rusty bolt, and one time I used it as rattle snake repellent which, strictly speaking wasn’t a mechanical application, but I was working on a mechanical project at the time and didn’t have a tool of sufficient length to safely kill the snake, so it counts. I was there, I saw the danger, WD-40 saved me, it counts.

On the other hand, aside from temporarily holding a part in place (or in the case of my pickup side mirror, temporarily holding it for 15 years), duct tape and twine really shine in the other farm-ranch type duties as assigned, as well as with a variety of specifically horse-related needs.

Duct tape has a strong public relations campaign in the general populace so I might say as a knee-jerk reaction that duct tape is king. Certainly, I have gone through miles of it — testing all brands and thicknesses of it — wrapping doctored horse feet. That said, all evidence — on my property and in more photos than I care to admit — points to twine being my constant savior in a crisis, going well beyond the call of duty.

It holds gates in place (for years), temporarily repairs a fence (wire or wood), replaces broken or miss-sized leather straps on tack and acts as a door latch, an emergency lead line or leash and a tarp strap extension. It’s in use everywhere here. I keep a stash of “the good stuff” hung in the barn and in the tack shed. I know for a fact that I have some in the pockets of two coats and one vest at this very moment.

You just never know when you’ll need it. In fact, did you know that you can use twine to cut through other twine? Amazing stuff, really.

But a recent grassroots push on the Internet is advancing duct tape’s image as a go-to horse training aid.

I have seen — from a variety of sources — video and photographs in which people have stuck a 6 to 8 inch long strip of duct tape on their horse’s nose to calm the horse while the horse is getting its feet trimmed or shod.

No kidding.

Because none of the “evidence” I have viewed has shown the horses’ behavior before the duct tape application, or “treatment” if you will, I am skeptical. I even said out loud to my computer, “Really? I don’t know. This I gotta try.”

And so I did.

In the interest of full disclosure, the only unruly horse I had for experimental purposes is my new not-quite 3-year-old whose previous owner didn’t have the time to teach her the finer points of grooming politeness, and the handful of times she’s been tied to a post have been at my place in just the last few months.

So there were issues.

My findings in this very limited experiment are that 1) the tape helps to distract the horse from fussing about having its foot lifted off the ground and messed with, but the new antics can be almost as annoying as the fussing, 2) at some point the green horse gets bored with the tape and remembers that it was trying to train you not to pick up its feet, so the tape is an aid to the training, but does not replace it, and 3) the horse couldn’t get the tape rubbed off, even when scraping her nose against my backside, but that also means a portion of hair came off with the tape when we were done, even though I pulled it off really fast in the direction of hair growth, as per band aid removal procedures taught by moms and dads everywhere.

Hair loss is not such a bad thing during spring shedding season (and it opened up the possibility for further experiments), but it might prove to be a problem other times of the year, like heading into winter when horse bodies really like to retain their hair.

Of course, if I’d thought of it that day, I could have sprayed WD-40 on her nose to loosen the sticky stuff before yanking the tape. But there can always be a next time to give that tool a chance to outshine the others.

(No horses were harmed in the experimental process at pam@viewfromthenorth40.com.)

 

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